PARIS — Belgian fashion renegade Walter Van Beirendonck said his WALTER-store in Antwerp, the avant-garde multi-brand store he opened in 1998, is to shutter.
In an email, the designer said that despite having signed a lease that was meant to be valid through to 2016, his landlord took him to court two years ago to seek an exorbitant rent hike — and won the case.
“The judge ruled that it was retroactive two years, which resulted in a huge amount that I could not pay,” said Van Beirendonck, adding: “[When] I found the space for my shop 13 years ago, it was a ruin, a dirty car park in an unfashionable area of Antwerp…I invested a lot of money to create my WALTER-store…Due to the fact that in the meantime the area became fashionable, [the landlord] wanted to raise the rent by 2.5 times.”
Situated on St. Antoniusstraat, the sprawling gallery-like space featured an industrial garage door that cranked open upon the nearing of footsteps, as well as a vast central counter designed by Marc Newson. The site was a beacon for the city’s fashionistas and tourists.
As well as Van Beirendonck’s collections, brands stocked included Bernhard Willhelm, Bless, Christian Wijnants, Pleasure Principle, Dirk Van Saene and Comme des Garçons Play. Designs by Dutch furniture designer Piet Hein Eek were also sold, along with vintage furniture. Unusual fixtures included a giant reclining teddy bear that housed children’s wear, and mechanical racks spinning T-shirts.
“It was a tough decision, but unfortunately the only one possible. But I will be back,” vowed Van Beirendonck.
The designer, who shot to fashion fame in the Eighties as part of the group of influential Belgian designers known as the Antwerp Six that includes Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Van Saene, heads the fashion department at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he is an alumnus.
News of the store closure comes a couple of days before the end of the first large-scale retrospective dedicated to the designer, “Dream the World Awake,” at the Antwerp Fashion Museum. The show opened last September.